Father’s Day Without Dad: Remembering Lost Loved Ones with New Traditions

Father and son on a bench

For many of us, “father” is synonymous with love, guidance and support. That love does not dissipate after our fathers die—in fact, our admiration often grows as we ourselves age.

So on Father’s Day, how do you celebrate a person who meant so much to you—especially if this is your first Father’s Day without your dad or grandfather? That’s what we asked readers. We hope you find inspiration from them about how to pay tribute to the memory of our dear dads and granddads.

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When my family and I visit my dad at the cemetery, we talk to him out loud as if he were standing in front of us. Then, we each place a penny on his grave and let him know it’s for his thoughts. My father is really missed, and I don’t think the visits will ever stop. On Father’s Day, he gets flowers and candles at his gravesite as well.

— Leonor C.

My grandfather passed away four years ago. It saddens me because he was the only grandfather I knew. On Father’s Day, we have a “celebration.” The whole family gathers to have a meal together and remember my grandfather.

— Stephany R.

My father loved bluebirds. So the first Father’s Day after he died, I gave my mom a solar-powered bluebird garden ornament and bought a second one to put in my yard. It’s a nice reminder that he is always with us, especially when it glows.

— Traci F.

Last year was the first Father’s Day without my dad. I think it was still too hard to even acknowledge his passing. This year, I think we have accepted it better. Instead of going to his grave, we are planning on doing something he would like (going to the movies, playing mini golf or bowling) and eating at one of his favorite restaurants in his honor. My daughter and I are thinking of planting something in his honor, too.

— Jamie J.

I lost my father three weeks after my son was born. That was about three years ago. Every year during Father’s Day, I honor my father by looking back over old pictures with my son and posting a nice picture on Facebook.

— Danica B.

I like to visit my father’s gravesite on Father’s Day, talk to my kids about him and have a quiet moment to myself to reflect.

— Allison C.

For Father’s Day, my mom and I like to go to my grandfather’s grave and place flowers there. It’s also an Asian tradition to have a feast not too far from the cemetery. So we also bring home-cooked Chinese food and eat it nearby. To incorporate memories of my grandfather, we have his favorite dessert that he always liked to get for the family—red bean soup.

— Peg C.